Behind the Mic: Sportsnet Ousts Don Cherry; ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Cashes in on Massive Contract

Behind the Mic provides a roundup of recent news regarding on-air talent, including new deals, departures, and assignments compiled from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, a long-time NHL broadcaster is fired, a famous name at ESPN grabs a new mega-deal, a couple of ESPN personalities are extended, and an old friend of WWE rejoins their ranks.

Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry has officially been fired from the program. According to the Toronto Sun, Sportsnet cut ties with the 85-year-old broadcaster after disparaging comments were made about Canadian immigrants on Coach’s Corner on Nov. 9.

“Sports brings people together — it unites us, not divides us. Following further discussions with Don Cherry after Saturday night’s broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down,” said Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley. “During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.”

Cherry was a face that appeared on Hockey Night in Canada for 33 years…

… According to The New York Post, Stephen A. Smith has agreed to a gargantuan contract extension to keep the popular ESPN talent at the network. The deal is worth $8 million per year, eclipsing the former record of $6.5 million held by GetUp host Mike Greenberg.

Smith will continue to be front and center on ESPN’s air with his daily morning show First Take, as well as on SportsCenter and the network’s NBA coverage…

…ESPN has reached a multi-year contract extension with SEC Nation host Laura Rutledge to enhance her multifaceted profile across ESPN networks, becoming a permanent contributor to Get Up on ESPN.

Rutledge, who joined the Get Up desk as a weekly correspondent last fall, has been a part of the show’s steady rise over the past year. Get Up continues its monthly streak of growth in October, now standing at eight straight, thanks to an increase of 5%. Get Up leads cable from 8– 10 a.m. ET among men 18-34 and 18-49.

As part of her new deal, Rutledge will remain the host of SEC Nation on SEC Network, currently in her third straight season in the anchor chair and fourth football season with the show overall. She will also continue her presence across a number of high-profile network studio shows and programming, including appearances anchoring SportsCenter, hosting College Football Live and reporting from the College Football Playoff…

…ESPN national correspondent Sal Paolantonio has a new multi-year agreement with ESPN that will call for the experienced reporter and host to expand his role by serving as in-booth analyst for an NFL game on ESPN Radio.

As part of the new extension, he will continue to cover the NFL for SportsCenterSunday NFL Countdown, NFL Live, and Fantasy Football Now, and will remain host of the long-running NFL Matchup show on Sunday mornings. In addition, he has a regular presence at NFL Draft and the owners meetings, and reports on other sports and major stories throughout the year…

CM Punk, one of the most celebrated WWE Superstars of all time, joins the roster of FS1’s WWE BACKSTAGE beginning next week, Tues, Nov. 19 at 11:00 PM ET/8:00 PM PT.

Phil Brooks, better known as CM Punk, joins WWE BACKSTAGE as a special contributor and analyst. He will make select appearances in-studio alongside host Renee Young and analyst Booker T.

“The Best in the World” joins fellow regular contributors Christian and Paige, as well as news correspondent Ryan Satin on the WWE BACKSTAGE rotation.